Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gwilym Newman remembered

He was a geek who won science fairs, pitted Superman against the Incredible Hulk and made dry ice with his dad. He was a husband who occasionally took his young wife to the Jersey Shore to see the ocean at night. He was a new father looking forward to celebrating the same birthday as his son who turns two next Friday.

And, amid all that, former Barnegat resident Gwilym J. Newman, 24, was a first lieutenant in the army who for the past seven months had led a platoon in Iraq. Last Thursday he was shot and killed by a sniper while on patrol in Tarmiyah.

"I called him my Nutty Professor," his wife, Samantha, 22, said from her home in Texas near Fort Hood where Newman was stationed before his October deployment. "He could be so dweeby sometimes, and I loved him that much more for it."

Growing up in Barnegat, Newman would "live, eat and breathe school," according to his friend Scott Hayes, who was best man at his wedding. From elementary up through Southern Regional High School, he would compete in science fairs, one year building a laser, Samantha remembers.

Around 10th grade, the Newmans moved to Waldorf, Md., where Gwilym finished high school a year ahead of his class. He graduated from Frostburg State University in 2003 with a degree in psychology.

Samantha said her husband's plan was to stay in the service to help pay for medical school, with the goal of being a doctor by age 30. His father, Peter Gwilym Newman, who died more than a year ago, was a research physicist for the Army. His mother, Christine, was a nurse.

"Whenever you needed to know something everyone would say ask Gwilym," she said. "He had this thirst for knowledge."

Beyond the recreational experiments and the comic-book collecting — his MySpace page has Superman wallpaper — Newman was also a romantic, taking his wife to Seaside Heights to ride the cable car across the boardwalk and over the ocean.

Also present was a rowdy side, mostly contained in his bachelor years. When not nose-deep in books, he, Hayes and another friend Erin Rogers — dubbed the "gruesome threesome" — used to take the neighbor's Jet Skis on the water or drive a parent's truck off-road.

"We were raising hell on the bay or raising hell in the woods," said Hayes, now 25 and an IT support technician for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta.

Hayes described Newman as a stubborn individual who liked to question authority. He therefore shocked friends when he announced he was joining the military.

"It was the last thing I thought he'd do," Hayes said. "But if there was one thing to say about Gwilym it's that when he put his mind to something he'd do it come hell or high water."

In Iraq, Newman had grown so dedicated to his men they became like family, Samantha said.

Then there was the family he was raising. A day before he was killed, Newman was talking with Samantha about the scuba trip to South Padre they had planned for their anniversary. They also debated over which physical therapist to treat their son, Gwilym Alexander, who is behind developmentally due to a premature birth.

"I knew there was danger associated with his job," Samantha said. "I was always aware that this could happen. But it still takes you by surprise when it does because you always hope it's not your husband."

From the Asbury Park Press

Related Link:
Gwilym J. Newman killed by 'enemy small arms fire while on dismounted patrol'